Visiting the coast of Maine for the first time, I was struck by how many wonderful hamlets and harbors exist along the rocky Atlantic coastline. Kennebunkport drew my attention from the beginning, probably because of the many times I heard its name during the Presidency of George H.W. Bush, “Daddy Bush” or simply “41” as the locals refer to him. Now that I have spent time there, I am more convinced than ever that this is a part of Maine many would love. Here are my seven reasons to recommend it.
1) Inns that Suit the History and Vibe of Kennebunkport
You can easily find a list of several dozen inns. My choice, Captain Lord Mansion at 6 Pleasant Street a short walk from Dock Square, a shopping and eating hub that wraps around the port. The only AAA, Four Diamond Inn in Kennebunkport, the rooms at Captain Lord Mansion are well-appointed and comfortable.
And the entire inn contains period furnishings and artwork befitting its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places bearing the date of 1812. Built that year by Nathaniel Lord, a rich shipbuilder, the building passed through generations of Lord family members until it was sold in 1972. Subsequently if became a bed and breakfast. Meticulously maintained gardens surround the buildings on the property and provide abundant seasonal color. Breakfast each morning is a three-course experience with a menu that changes daily.
2) Unique Shops that Hug the Harbor
If you want chain and big box stores, then you will have to drive several miles away. Dock Square offers one-of-a-kind, locally-owned stores containing both bargains and special treasures. With names like Beach Grass, Scalawags, Digs Divots and Dogs, Abacus and Ireland on the Square, you can spend many happy hours perusing the shelves and strolling from one shop to the next.
3) Lobster Mac and Cheese at Allison’s in Dock Square
Frequented by visitors and townsfolk alike, Allison’s has been serving New England specialties since 1973 for lunch and dinner seven days a week, year-round. If you’re visiting Maine for the first time, you must try at least one of the ways that Allison’s prepares lobster.
I chose Lobster Mac and Cheese and feasted on large, generous chunks of that tasty crustacean. This casual, comfortable place understands how to please Mainers.
4) Mabel’s Lobster Claw, a Favorite of Bush 41
You simply can’t come to Maine without eating at least one lobster roll. If Mabel’s Lobster Claw at 124 Ocean Avenue is good enough for a President of the United States, then I figured it was good enough for me.
Open since 1953, Mabel’s serves fresh seafood, along with blueberry and raspberry pies and a wide selection of ice creams, including Bush 41’s personal choice, peppermint stick. In the past, Bush has been known to visit Mabel’s at least twice each season. I know the folks at Mabel’s are hoping for another visit when the weather warms, and his health allows him to travel once again. Mabel’s is open for lunch and dinner from April to October.
5) Walker’s Point, Summer Home of Bush 41
Keep on driving on Ocean Avenue past Mabel’s Lobster Claw until you come to a lookout for Walker’s Point. The summer home for Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara has been enjoyed for many years by their children and grandchildren who come to visit. Secret Service agents stationed in a gatehouse assure the privacy of Bush family members.
But parking just off of the main highway provides a great vantage point for taking photos safely. Built on a piece of land that juts right out into the Atlantic Ocean, the Bush home must provide amazing sweeping views. Bush 41’s son Jeb recently built a home within this family compound. So Kennebunkport is likely to have members of this notable family coming into town for the foreseeable future.
6) Cape Porpoise, the Goat Island Lighthouse and Pier 77 Restaurant
In a five-minute drive from the shops of Dock Square in Kennebunkport via State Route 9, you will discover Cape Porpoise Harbor. In addition to three restaurants at the end of Pier Road, you will also find a great view of the Goat Island Lighthouse from the parking lot of those eateries. Established in 1833 the lighthouse boasts some of the most gorgeous sunsets anywhere near Kennebunkport.
The Ramp Bar and Grill on Pier Road has very limited hours until St Patrick’s Day. Cape Pier Chowder House will reopen its doors on April 1st after a winter break. However, Pier 77 Restaurant remains open year-round for lunch and dinner. Enjoy the stunning views from inside while eating the well-prepared and delicious food.
7) Cape Neddick Lightstation (Nubble Lighthouse)
Nubble Lighthouse, a short forty-minute drive from Kennebunkport, consistently makes the list of “most beautiful lighthouses in America.”
Officially called Cape Neddick Lightstation, it was completed in 1879. Get the best view from Sohier Park. A Welcome Center in the park opens seven days a week from mid-April until late October. Visitors can enjoy clean restrooms, a gift shop and free parking for picnics, taking photographs, fishing and even scuba diving.
In addition to these seven attractions, Kennebunkport is blessed with amazing natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Boats of all sizes are anchored in the harbor.
The seafood is fresh. Succulent blueberries grown nearby make their way onto many restaurant menus in July and August. And Whoopie Pies, one of Maine’s signature desserts, are ready to make your visit especially sweet. Kennebunkport wakes up from winter by Memorial Day each year and continues in full swing through Columbus Day weekend. Keep this in mind when you make your reservations.
Find additional information on Captain Lord Mansion and other places to stay in Kennebunkport on TripAdvisor, a MilesGeek affiliate.